21 April 2009

Homily for Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

· Acts 4: 32-37
· Portions of Psalm 93
· John 3: 7-15

Last Wednesday was tax day. Around the country, thousands of American citizens gathered at so-called “Tax Day Tea Parties”. While a broad range of grass-roots anger brought everyone out, one of the themes I kept seeing on signs and in the words of participants was an opposition to the adoption of Socialism in the United States.

Participants pointed at the failures of the European and Canadian systems, as well as the fall of the Soviet Union, the recent capitalist upsurge in China, and even the status of Cuba as proofs of the failures of socialism.

Imagine the shock they must feel if, today, they are sitting in Church and they heard this Scripture read. They find a place where Socialism did work. It was the Christian Church.

In our first reading today, drawn from the fourth chapter of Acts, we have just about the most perfect example of voluntary socialism that we have ever seen… complete with the amazing result “…nor was there anyone needy among them…” Stop for a second and consider that. There was not a single needy person in the Church at Jerusalem. Wealth was freely and joyfully redistributed! Can you fathom that? How could this possibly occur?

The answer is not a mystery, at least, not to those of us who have bothered to listen to the words of our Lord. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus speaks boldly to Nicodemus about how we can be transformed into the image and likeness of God – by the power of the Spirit.

We who believe that the Son of Man has been lifted up for our salvation know that when we conform our lives to his example – something that occurs when the Holy Spirit indwells within us and is allowed to transform us – great things can happen. Imagine a Christian Church today where no member goes without basic human needs and services… I’m not talking about some kind of Prosperity Gospel knock-off; I am talking about THE GOSPEL and the example of the Apostles and Church Fathers who found that their calling to proclaim the gospel included a calling to relieve not only suffering from sin but from worldly anxieties as well.

In stark contrast to the prosperity Gospel:

THE TRUE CHRISTIAN GOSPEL is one that says our sins are forgiven through the gracious work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE TRUE CHRISTIAN GOSPEL does not promise us perfect health in this life, a new Cadillac if we just pray the right way, or the exchange of a one-hundred dollar ‘seed offering’ for a one-thousand dollar ‘harvest return’. That is the Gospel of hucksters and cheats who seek to make the message of Jesus palatable to a perverse and materialistic generation.

THE TRUE CHRISTIAN GOSPEL is one that says that we are called to be transformed into the image and likeness of our Savior and Brother, a likeness that is filled with compassion and concern for those less fortunate than ourselves.

THE TRUE CHRISTIAN GOSPEL is one that requires us to live sacrificially – not because we are atoning for our own sins, but because living sacrificially is the first step to meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than ourselves.

The Tax Day protestors were right about one thing – Government sponsored socialism is a questionable (at best) proposition. But Socialism is not a questionable philosophy. It is the only one that has ever enabled the Church to be what it is called to be in response to the social end of her Gospel mandate. Christian Socialism must not be a political movement, as it has been in the past. Christian Socialism is a gospel lifestyle made manifest in the lives of believers – those who have been reborn by water and the Spirit.

May God give us the grace to accept this teaching, and the boldness to live it out; in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and by the power of his all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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